COLLEGE: WNC is set for first SWAC tourney game
The Western Nevada College baseball team will be in a comfort zone at the Scenic West Athletic Conference tournament.
WNC won all 20 of its SWAC regular-season games at John L. Harvey Field en route to 43 regular-season victories against just 13 losses en route to the regular-season title.
None of that matters when the Wildcats open postseason play today at home against College of Southern Nevada.
“Our guys took their lumps early in the season, playing nationally ranked team after nationally ranked team,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said in a press release. “Couple that with the fact that we played 36 out of 40 on the road to start the year and you can imagine just how satisfying the finish has been.
“We understand as well as anybody that the regular season was great but the real season starts this week. Nobody gets any credit for anything that has happened to this point in the season. Everyone starts 0 and 0 and has to earn the right to keep playing.”
In a change from the regular season, all tournament games will all be nine innings. That usually means at least two pitchers.
That isn’t a huge concern to Whittemore, whose team compiled a 3.24 ERA. The Wildcats’ pitching staff is nine deep.
“Absolutely I expect to use two pitchers a game,” Whittemore said. “It’s hard to remain effective after six or seven innings.
“I’m not sure who will start the opener. We have five guys who are candidates to start the first game.”
The Wildcats’ staff is versatile. Chris Garrison (7-3, 2.32), Anthony Consiglio (7-1, 2.40), Tim Peterson (8-0, 2.45), Brandon Jackson (3-4, 4.10) and Andrew Woeck (7-2, 4.57) have all rotated between starting and relieving this season. Kody Gorden has been used primarily as a starter with a 6-1 record and 3.26 ERA, while Tyler Spencer (2-0, 2.31), Jason Wittwer (0-0, 3.63), Matt Robertson (2-1, 5.06) and Tony Guerra (1-0, 6.00) have been used mostly as relievers.
“It (rotating roles) requires unselfishness,” Whittemore said. “It’s what makes the team and pitching staff so unique.”
The Wildcats boast four regulars hitting .300 or better – Connor Eppard (.347, 8 HR, 37 RBI), Chris Woolley (.344, 1 HR, 34 RBI), Sean Potkay (.321, 5 HR, 36 RBI) and Beau Day (.309, 7 HR, 46 RBI). Tanner Nielsen, the team’s No. 9 hitter is hitting .279, but has driven in some key runs.
Whittemore hopes to have outfielder Bobby Pappin available for action. Pappin suffered an ankle injury sliding into home to end a recent mercy rule game. He missed the final series of the season against Salt Lake.
“He’s a guy I like to play against left-handed pitchers,” Whittemore said. “We’re very likely to see a left-handed pitcher (against CSN). It would be a sizable loss if we don’t have him. He’s a guy that we move Eppard out of centerfield for.”
The other question mark is who will DH this week.
“It will be a match-up thing,” Whittemore said. “The lion’s share of at-bats have been going to (Jon) Sigado and Zach (Hendrix).”
Besides the aforementioned duo, WNC could use Donald Glover Jr., Day, Sean Dwyer and Neil Lawhorn.
It’s a deep, talented team with the emphasis on team.
“We are a team in the truest sense of the word, so it is hard to single out a player or a group, but our sophomores truly did an amazing job of leading this team and for that we are all indebted. Every year it seems the players rise to the challenge of making the WNC tradition stronger.”
SOFTBALL: No. 6 Western Nevada, 8-38, plays in-state rival and No. 3 seed College of Southern Nevada today at noon.
If WNC wins its opener it would play CSI at 5 p.m. today. A loss would send WNC into a Friday game at 9:30 a.m.
The Wildcats are coming off a split against College of Southern Idaho. The Wildcats won the opener 2-1 and lost in extra innings in Saturday’s second game.
Coach Leah Wentworth commended the team for Saturday’s showing.
“Our pitchers did a great job for us,” she said. “They kept the hitters off balance and made them work to earn their way on base. Defensively, we played solid and forced CSI to leave a lot of runners on base.
“If we can carry this momentum into regionals, anything is possible. We are entering a new season, and we’ll be looking to produce some upsets.”
The Wildcats boast four hitters at .300 or better. Jordan Thomas leads the way at .394 with three homers and 15 RBIs. Melanie Pfeiffer is at .354 followed by Ashley Hall (.320, 7 HR, 26 RBIs) and Ashley Gleason (.320, 1 HR and 15 RBIs). Megan Hein is hitting .297 and Cassie Vondrak are at .295.